3 Early Warning Signs You’re Suffering From Whiplash

Whiplash is a soft tissue injury which occurs when tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the neck are jerked beyond their normal range of motion. Because they usually involve sudden stops and abrupt deceleration, automotive accidents are among the leading causes of whiplash in the United States. It’s important to take whiplash injuries seriously, because they can lead to chronic pain, recurring headaches, and permanent neck stiffness if left untreated. In an effort to help crash victims get prompt and adequate medical care, our Baltimore car accident lawyers have compiled three common early warning signs of whiplash.

Red Flag #1: Headaches, Neck Pain, and Stiff Shoulders

Injured muscles will become stiff and constricted in order to limit movement. This response facilitates proper healing, but also causes pain and restricts mobility.

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Depending on the extent of the injury, you might experience anything from a mild, intermittent ache, to severe, near-constant pain. The pain might be restricted to your neck, or might radiate to your shoulders and upper back. It might also be accompanied by persistent headaches, which tend to start at the base of the skull and radiate upward toward the ears.

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. In the meantime, try these simple tips to reduce your pain and discomfort:

  • During the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury occurs, apply ice or a cold pack to your neck for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Repeat this process every two or three hours to help keep the swelling down.
  • Try to keep your head and neck as still as possible. The less you move your neck, the faster it will be able to heal.
  • Avoid exercise or strenuous physical activities like playing sports or lifting heavy furniture.
  • When you go to bed, roll a towel under your neck for added support and stability.
  • Purchase a foam brace to help immobilize your neck. You can find them in most drug stores and department stores for about $10.

Red Flag #2: Vertigo and Dizziness

Dizziness following a head or neck injury is known as post-traumatic vertigo, where the term vertigo generally describes a false sensation of spinning or losing balance. According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, post-traumatic vertigo caused by whiplash is “possibly related” to a similar condition called cervical vertigo, which is also caused by neck injuries. Cervical vertigo patients experience dizziness when they move their necks.

According to a 2006 study published in European Spine Journal, “Vertigo and dizziness are… reported in 25% to 50% of [whiplash] cases.” (The same study also notes that neck pain, shoulder blade pain, and headaches are “the most common complaints” in whiplash cases, as we discussed in the previous section.)

Red Flag #3: Blurry Vision and Ringing Ears

Since whiplash involves injury to the neck muscles, people are often surprised to learn about this apparently unrelated symptom. In addition to blurred vision, other eye issues which can be caused by whiplash and head injuries include:

  • Difficulty switching your focus between near and distant objects.
  • Disturbances to normal eye motion. A medical study published in Brain found that whiplash could impair “saccadic” or rapid, tracking eye movements.
  • Damage to the optic nerve, which sends nerve impulses from your brain to your retinas.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light.

Your eyes aren’t the only sensory organs which can be affected by a neck injury. Whiplash can also cause ringing ears, a condition known as tinnitus. According to a study conducted by Oregon Health Science University researchers, over 12% of the 2,400 patients surveyed – about 288 people – stated their tinnitus was caused by a head or neck injury.

Car Accident Injuries Are Often Delayed

Like any high-stress situation, a car accident sends a blast of endorphins and adrenaline pumping through your body. Adrenaline (epinephrine), which is a hormone, helps prepare the body for “fight or flight” by increasing the heart rate, sending more oxygen to the lungs, and dilating the pupils. Endorphins, which are chemicals called neurotransmitters, function like natural pain-killers.

Thanks to the surge of endorphins and adrenaline, you might feel fine right after an accident – even if you’ve actually been injured. As these substances return to their normal levels, you will begin to experience the delayed effects of the injury your body was initially suppressing. (In fact, this is precisely why insurance companies rush to offer low settlements immediately after a car accident occurs.)

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For this reason, it’s very important not to dismiss post-accident onset of pain, or assume that “it must be something else.” Remember, soft tissue injuries are notorious for failing to appear on X-rays. Your doctor may be missing a crucial diagnosis, so it’s always worth considering a second or even third opinion if you suspect you’re suffering from an injury.

If you were in a car accident, motorcycle accident, or truck accident in Baltimore or the surrounding area, you may be entitled to compensation for the pain, suffering, and medical expense caused by your whiplash injury. To set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call the personal injury attorneys of Whitney LLP at (410) 583-8000 right away.


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